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Community Wealth Building Network announces first job opportunity

Metro Denver's Community Wealth Building Network aims to build wealth within the community through increasing local ownership, control of resources and income. To date, the network was supported by volunteers at other organizations. But now, it's ready to hire its first staff member. 

"We are looking for someone who can not only connect with disenfranchised community residents, but also feels comfortable meeting with organizational and Metro Denver leaders," says Patrick Horvath, interim vice president at The Denver Foundation. "Denver is on the cutting edge of this movement and we can be a proving ground for innovative economic strategies that lift whole communities."

To that end, the Community Wealth Building Network's new fellow will conduct on-the-ground research into current and potential community wealth building in the metro area. The fellow will work to strengthen connections between such efforts and with the network's partners. They will create a five- to seven-year community wealth building vision and plan for metro Denver.

Community wealth building engages in creating sustainable businesses that keep jobs and resources within the community. It also promotes land trusts, local procurement by institutions including universities and hospitals, local investing circles and community empowerment.

"Look at the Green Taxi company, which is the largest worker co-operative in Colorado: All the drivers own a share in the company as well as their vehicles," says Halisi Vinson, executive director of Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC), an organization that helps companies move from sole proprietorship to employee-owned businesses.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Harvest Company introduces Operation TransparenC

Colorado Harvest Company is introducing Operation TransparenC, an effort to show its growing processes in great detail to consumers and other industry members. In doing so, the company is aiming to show consumers how legal cannabis growers are distinguishing themselves from black market growers. The company is posting information about the purity and potency cannabis available from its three Colorado Harvest centers.

"Colorado Harvest Company is leading the way on  TransparenC, but our hope is that other companies follow suit," says CEO Tim Cullen. "I would welcome any partnership that has the same goals in mind." 

The company announced the new program last week after the the Colorado Department of Agriculture showed the purity of Colorado Harvest’s cannabis for the second consecutive year. The department tested hundreds of the company’s samples between November 2016 and January 2017. 

"We are constantly working toward ways to be different while providing a high quality experience for our customers," Cullen says. "There are two ways to look at regulation. One, it's a great opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves from the black market and shine for our customers; or two, the regulation becomes the focus and not the customer. We have to keep our eye on the ball while we comply with ever increasing demands from regulatory bodies." 

Cullen has begun speaking with 22 officials from state agriculture departments as far away as Florida and Guam. He also is presenting information about profitable and compliant production methods at two upcoming cannabis conferences.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Agility Recovery adds offices nationwide with new ReadyComplete suite

Agility Recovery, the Denver-based disaster recovery company that helps companies recover from hurricanes, floods, fires, blizzards and other challenging situations, is opening more than 3,200 locations across the country and internationally as part of its new ReadyComplete suite of services. The company provides its customer businesses with power, communications, computers and office space.

"Agility is providing access to thousands of office locations across the US and Canada, as well as overseas," explains Scott Teel, Agility Recovery marketing VP. "They are not Agility-owned office locations but are instead powered by the extensive portfolio of Regus-managed facilities."
 

The expansion is being funded by its investor, LLR Partners, Teel says. As the company expands it will add more positions both in Colorado and across the country. "We expect a company-wide head count increase of more than 10 percent for 2017 and continued growth over each of the next three years," Teel says. 

Agility relocated its headquarters from Charlotte, NC, to Denver in Oct. 2016, creating more than 40 jobs. "In 2016 we nearly tripled the number of employees on the Colorado team," Teel explains. "Some of these were transfers from the Charlotte office, but many were new hires. In January, we grew our Denver staff by 10 percent."

Teel says the company also expects to add more positions here. "We expect to add about 10 percent to our Denver head count over the course of 2017. Though we are always seeking to increase productivity and scalability through improved process and technology, we are still predicting even greater employee head count growth in Denver in 2018-19."

The growth comes as the market for recovery services is growing. It's currently valued at $40 billion and growing by 10 percent annually, according to TechTarget figures.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


Gates rejoins Innovators Colorado

Gates Corporation has rejoined Innovators Colorado (iiCO), a network of Colorado-based companies working together to solve each others' problems and launch new companies and services to meet members' needs. The organization is the first regional chapter of Innovators International.

The Colorado chapter of Innovators International has already launched a company called iiFund, explains Thomas Knoll, president of Innovators Colorado. "It's a corporate venture capital fund created to help our members acquire and license new technologies." He adds, "We're in the process of creating several new companies that will acquire and license new technologies for our members. These companies will serve our members' strategic and financial interests."

Gates Corporation has renewed its membership to bolster its efforts to build the most cutting-edge growth engine in their industry. "Gates is interested in creating a new innovation management system that allows new ideas, products and services to move through their company more rapidly while producing better results," Knoll explains.

The organization's members include chief innovation officers and meet on a quarterly basis to discuss solutions to each other's innovation challenges. They also share venture capital and consulting services aimed at building innovation engines.

"The marketplace requires a relentless pace of continuous innovation and by joining forces with other large, innovative organizations we are better positioned to ensure our competitiveness," says Tom Pitstick, Gates SVP of Innovation.  "Innovators Colorado plays a critical role in helping Gates Corp build a reliable innovation department -- an engine for our company's growth."

Knoll says that Gates will use its partnership to help the company create a new innovation management system. The system will help new ideas, move through the company rapidly to create new products and services.

The group will have its next meeting at Colorado's CableLabs -- a member of iiCO -- on Feb. 23.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Utivity acquires Besomebody's Experience Marketplace

Denver-based Utivity, an outdoor adventure platform, acquired Besomebody's Experience Marketplace, to expand its national presence. The Besomebody marketplace allows people to book and host more than 400 types of experiences ranging from art to adventure.

Utivity offers more than 1,000 types of experiences -- everything from archery and basketball to wakeboarding and yoga, but outdoor and adventure activities are its most popular experiences. It plans to expand its outdoor base as it begins to scale up nationally.

"We started this company with one goal: empower both instructors and doers to experience every activity under the sun," says Utivity CEO Kyle Granowski. "The acquisition of Besomebody's Experience Marketplace allows us to pursue that goal with an extremely talented instructor base while expediting our growth efforts."

Utivity has helped more than 2,000 experience providers in the Denver-area earn more than $200,000 since it launched in 2015. The acquisition will more than double its user base and help accelerate its expansion, Granowski says. Through it, Utivity will gain access to Besomebody's large user and provider base across Texas, California and New England, as well as internationally.

"We couldn't be more excited to join forces with Besomebody to help people discover unique experiences, and make money doing what they love," says Granowski. "The Besomebody team has done an incredible job building a huge community of people who want to get out, and do more. We've had our eyes on them for a while, and the timing was finally right to make something happen. As Besomebody moves forward with their focus on education and employment, we're honored to be the premier platform where people come for activities and adventure."

Under the purchase, which was made for an undisclosed sum, Besomebody will retain its branding, trademarks and community assets. Besomebody will transition its hosting and booking strategies, services and data to Utivity and help it tap into Besomebody's partner network. Besomebody's founder and CEO Kash Shaikh will also join Utivity's board to assist with transition and growth plans.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Apto hiring 10 new employees in wake of accolades and awards

Apto's real estate platform for commercial real estate brokers was recently named one of the Best Mobile Apps by the Real Estate Tech Awards. The company was named by Outside as one of the best companies to work in 2016, and was also ranked among Inc.'s fastest growing companies in the U.S.

It should be no surprise that the company is increasing hiring and naming new executives. Case in point: Apto announced that it is hiring Steve Neely as its vice president of engineering. "Steve is uniquely qualified to lead Apto's engineering efforts and will uphold our commitment to providing unparalleled solutions to our customers," explains CEO Tanner McGraw. "We hired him for his proven ability to run a high-performing engineering team and to build products that help our clients be more successful. His international experience and perspective are certainly valuable both strategically and culturally." 

Neely has more than 15 years of experience in the technology sector. He most recently was part of Rally Software's research and development division at Rally Software. In his new position, Neely will advance commercial real estate technology innovation at the firm. 

The company also said it would hire at least nine more key people by March. "We're significantly scaling up our sales and engineering functions, so we're hiring sales reps and sales managers, as well as senior and junior developers," McGraw says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Faction to expand its cloud with $11M funding round following year of big growth

Faction is growing its cloud rapidly. After growing 44 percent year-over-year, the cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider will continue to grow its operations in Denver, with a new $11 million round of funding. 

"The Faction team has earned our respect and enthusiasm by consistently delivering strong top-line growth coupled with substantial gross margins," says David Solomon, managing director of Meritage Funds. Meritage Funds and Sweetwater Capital are increasing their investments in the company. The new round of funding also included two new equity investors, Charterhouse Strategic Partners and Rifkin-Pottle Group, and debt financing from Ares Capital Corp.

"Faction's IaaS offerings clearly met and exceeded the needs of the company's target customers as evidenced by the addition of a record number of new customers, a record-setting number of Faction customers expanding their current service and customer retention rates well in excess of industry expectations," Solomon says. He states that the company shows a strong commitment to service as well as expanding its services.

In 2016, Faction was named a leading service provider on CRN's Data Center 100 list last year. The company partnered with Level 3 Communications, and BluePrint Information Management and Security Services. The company also released its Faction Internetwork eXchange (FIX) service allowing enterprises to connect private cloud and colocation resources into public clouds and introduced Faction Forums, a networking event series.

"The continued substantial support we're receiving from reputable and knowledgeable investors is a testament to the groundbreaking technology developments we're creating in the cloud arena, especially with our unique hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments," says Luke Norris, Faction founder. "This new funding round will go toward serving our rapidly growing customer base, bringing new products to the market, expanding our employee base and growing our global footprint." The company is likely to introduce new products and services in 2017, he adds. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Technology Association wins Microsoft STEM grant for Denver students

More than 800 Denver students interested in STEM-based careers will get additional opportunities to learn through Denver Public Schools' CareerConnect program. That's thanks to a new grant awarded to the Colorado Technology Foundation, a nonprofit created by the Colorado Technology Association (CTA).

"The grant will specifically support outreach and engagement throughout the tech community, benefitting students who have opted into the TechConnect pathway of study within Denver Public Schools," explains CTA spokesperson Fred Bauters. "TechConnect courses include web design, UX/UI, coding, computer science, robotics, intro to computer design, 3D animation and video game programming." 

The amount of the annual, multi-year grant was not immediately disclosed but it is part of Microsoft's YouthSpark initiative and will help CTA continue to grow the program. The organization said that it has helped nearly 500 high school students through the program placing them with more than 60 Colorado tech. The grant from Microsoft will allow it to continue serving students prepare for the future in 2017 and beyond.

"This grant to the Colorado Technology Foundation . . . is one of the many ways we're working to create opportunities for students to connect to and pursue STEM careers," says Phil Sorgen, Microsoft corporate vice president of enterprise sales.

"The work-based learning opportunities available to students through DPS CareerConnect prepare and equip students to pursue training programs and university degrees beyond high school," Bauters says. "DPS educators and industry mentors assist students with exploring post-secondary options and considering various career opportunities."

 While the program does not directly place students into jobs, Bauters observes that "[s]tudents are occasionally hired by host companies directly out of high school -- circumventing the need (and additional expense) for additional training and/or higher education." 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

SecureSet Academy closes $4M Series A financing round

SecureSet Academy, which offers cybersecurity training in a bootcamp-style setting, announced that it raised $4 million in a Series A round of funding led by the Colorado Impact Fund (CIF). The funding will allow the academy, currently encompassing campuses in Denver and Colorado Springs, to expand its offerings into new markets.

"Partnering with Colorado Impact Fund and raising this Series A round is a huge step for us," says Bret Fund, founder of SecureSet Academy. "We have validated our curriculum and instructional model, which more effectively creates job-ready cybersecurity professionals for an industry with a severe shortfall of talent. This new round of financing and partnership allow us to take our validated model and expand it to new geographic locations. We're excited and ready to grow." 

SecureSet offered its first classes last year. It's one of a growing number of companies and organizations in the state that are aimed at cybersecurity. In 2016, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a new National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs and the University of Denver launched a new, one-year cybersecurity masters program.

"There is a dramatic supply-demand gap in this industry. Organizations who need cybersecurity professionals have found that certifications aren't enough," says Ryan Kirkpatrick, a CIF partner. "Our diligence suggests that SecureSet Academy's high-intensity education, world-class curriculum and experienced team will position the company to scale quickly while providing benefit to students, government and industry."

The funds will allow SecureSet Academy to scale its educational offerings. It says there is a critical need for cybersecurity expertise across the country. Thus far, the academy says it has placed 100 percent of its students in a security job within two months. The average starting salary in the industry is $84,000.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Go Code Colorado's 2017 challenge launching Feb. 1

The Go Code Colorado challenge is about to kick off in 2017. The state will announce the goal of this year's challenge on Feb. 1 at an event at the Golden Triangle Galvanize

It's the fourth year for the challenge. The event that brings together entrepreneurs, business partners and developers to harness the wealth of public data to create apps aimed at solving problems. 

Secretary of State Wayne Williams will kick off the event which will include thought leaders from across Colorado who will talk about what's happening in the tech/innovation sector with their community. It will be the first of numerous events in Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins and Grand Junction that will culminate in choosing winners at an event on May 24.

"Two teams from each challenge site will move on to a mentor weekend in Boulder to further flush out ideas with tech leaders, lawyers and entrepreneurs from across the state," says Go Code Colorado spokesperson Brandy Whalen. "Ultimately, 3 teams will take home $25,000 for the best app concept." The funds will help the teams make the concept a reality. 

The event is proving popular. "Last year we had around 200 people divided amongst 35 teams," Whalen says. 

In 2016 the teams were asked to create an app and business concept that helps businesses build a competitive strategy. The winners were Foodcaster, Regulation Explorer and Hively. "All three winning teams from last year are actively working on business and app development," Whalen explains. Foodcaster integrates foot traffic and cellular service data, food truck parking regulations, Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook to help food truck owners find optimal locations and times. Regulation Explorer aims to streamline the permitting process for oil and gas exploration. Hively is using employment data to help businesses make better hiring decisions.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Cloud Elements raises $13M in Series B financing

Denver's Cloud Elements, an API integration platform provider, raised $13 million in a Series B funding round led by Harbert Growth Partners. With the latest round, the two-year-old company has raised $21.2 million. 

The company, named a "Denver Gazelle" in 2016, has enjoyed dynamic growth since launching, experiencing revenue growth of 40 percent on a quarter-over-quarter basis. The company said that makes it the fastest growing API management vendor in the industry.

"Over the past few years, the industry has witnessed exponential growth in public and private APIs," says Mark Geene, co-founder and CEO of Cloud Elements. "Businesses now rely on APIs as a critical component of daily operations, and the number of APIs needed per business will only continue to rise, leading to higher costs and delays for go-to-market strategies, customer programs and more."

Since launching in 2012, Geene's company has grown from offering a few API integration services to more than 120 pre-built API connectors to integrate multiple programs. "Our vision for the next generation of digital business is to unify the world of APIs in such a way that makes it easy for businesses to quickly and seamlessly integrate applications of any kind at a much lower cost -- something that has only been a daydream of developers until now," Geene says.

The integration platform that Cloud Elements has created allows developers to integrate cloud services, enterprise application and connected devices. "APIs are what enable businesses to really embrace digital transformation," explains Tom Roberts, a general partner at Harbert, who joined Cloud Elements' board. "Cloud Elements has been a pioneer in establishing this new space of enabling all APIs to work together, which is reinforced by their fast growth since they've launched their platform. We're excited to support their next-generation initiatives for the modern business and are to see where they lead."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

CDOT's $500K RoadX challenge open through February

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) launched the RoadX Bicycle and Pedestrian Challenge in 2016 to develop better systems to help those on foot and bicycles travel more safely. The RoadX challenge is open to proposals through Feb. 27. 

The challenge is made through a partnership with the Colorado Innovation Network's Imagine Colorado. The department said it is the nation's first statewide open innovation challenge platform to generate new ideas. In this case, the platform is taking on the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

Department officials hold that technological solutions to pedestrian and cycling safety can save lives. Studies have found that pedestrian crashes represent 10 percent of all fatalities and 7 percent serious injuries in Colorado. Bicycle crashes represent another 2 percent of all fatalities and 4 percent of all serious injuries in Colorado. 

The department will award $50,000 to the best ideas to help put them into action and the rest of the funds will support bringing concepts into reality, according to advocacy organization Bicycle Colorado. It will divide the awards into two tracks, the "Idea-thon" and the "Do-athon."

Under the first track up to five winners will each receive $10,000 for submitting a groundbreaking technological idea to improve bicycling and pedestrian safety. Under the second track, innovators can submit a unique and implementable idea that they must deploy within eight months of being selected as a finalist on March 31, 2017.

CDOT will select up to five finalists to build a proof of concept and will support each with $75,000 to help them launch the pilot. Of those, the one that implements the best program in the time period will receive $150,000 to continue it. The runner-up will receive $50,000 and the third runner-up will receive $25,000 to further develop their safety deployments. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Grad students help design a more walkable Montbello

WalkDenver, in its latest partnership with CU Denver graduate students, is tackling walkability issues in northeast Denver’s Montbello neighborhood. 

Bordered by major streets including 56th Avenue, Peoria Street, Chambers Road and I-70 the neighborhood struggles with ensuring its pedestrians, including the children who make up about 40 percent of residents in the area, have access to safe walking routes.

WalkDenver reports that more than 90 percent of students at McGlone Academy and Maxwell Elementary -- part of its 10 school Safe Routes to School Travel Plan project -- live within a mile of their respective campuses and don’t have school buses, meaning that children in the area walk, bike or are driven to school. In making the assessments, the CU Denver students performed on-site audits, researched demographic data interviewed local residents and used the WALKscope tool.

The CU Denver students and their assistant professor, Ken Schroeppel, presented their findings to community members. They found a number of ways to help make Montbello a safer place for pedestrians. They recommended upgrading sidewalks to current wider standards throughout the neighborhood and identified a lack of safe crossings on the wide roads throughout the neighborhood. Other factors that reduce walkability in the neighborhood include poorly maintained sidewalks, high speed limits and a dearth of shade trees. The students recommended improving sidewalks, crossings and bicycle lanes close to schools, parks, recreation centers and libraries.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

 

Denver-area startups win $15K in national Calvert Foundation competition

It was a Denver-area sweep for the 2016 Calvert Foundation Small Business Competition, with three local businesses winning the top three prizes in the national competition.

Outdoor adventure and clothing store Feral Mountain Company, took the top prize, $10,000. Denver's Pearl Wine Company took second, winning $3,000 and Golden-based rock and ice-climbing service Golden Mountain Guides, took third, winning $2,000.

"We are very proud of all our borrowers who participated in this competition and heartily congratulate those who won," says Ceyl Prinster, CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF), which supported each of the winners. "Starting a business can be cash-intensive, so when our borrowers are able to access additional funding that can help them grow to the next level, we are all for it."

It was the first time the Calvert Foundation held the competition, which was open to small businesses that received financing from nonprofit lenders like CEF. The goals of the contest, sponsored by the Calvert Foundation, were to promote small businesses with ties to the local community, enhancing business operations and educating people on investing in the local community and businesses that create local jobs. The contest also was aimed at generating awareness of the Calvert Foundation's Community Investment Note, which supports investments in small businesses. 

"We had over 5,000 votes -- way more than we expected," says Senior Officer of Investor Relations at the Calvert Foundation Katherine St. Onge. "We are so thrilled that the participants were able to showcase the value of small businesses to so many people!"

The Maryland-based Calvert Foundation launched the Ours To Own (OTO) Denver campaign in 2014. That effort is designed to channel capital towards community development efforts in Denver.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Commons on Champa looks back on its first full year at new campus

The Commons on Champa, Denver's center for entrepreneurship and innovation, recently released its 2016 impact report. The center reports that since launching its campus on the eponymous Champa St. downtown in 2015, it's served more than 23,000 community members.

The center has served those entrepreneurs through 450 programs and events it's hosted with 145 partners. That includes hosting 19 Meetup groups per month. The center also plays an integral part in Denver Startup Week and has hosted 4,000 people at events during that entrepreneurship juggernaut.

The bulk of those programs, 275, were hosted in 2016, according to the Commons. The programs were presented by 120 partners and 85 percent of them were free to the public. Through Denver's Office of Economic Development, the Commons also offered 326 hours of one on one assistance in helping people launch startups. 

To further support growth in Denver's innovator space, the Commons launched the InCommons Mentorship Program in 2016. That program connects entrepreneurs, innovators and disruptors with business leaders, innovators, and investors. It allows them to attend monthly mentor hours at the campus, join industry specific and subject matter forums and share online resources. It also gains them access to online, collaborative goal-setting tools. The offering already includes 240 members and 80 mentors and financial support from 20 partners.

As a capstone to its efforts in 2016, the Commons on Champa was awarded an Inclusion Challenge grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The campus will use the $400,000 grant in 2017 and 2018 to expand entrepreneurship focused on the inclusion of military veterans, women, people of color and new American citizens. It offers eight-week programs to help participants launch their businesses.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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